African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month
July is African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month. In celebration, Be The Match of South Texas is reaching out to our community to encourage potential donors from all ethnicities to consider becoming the cure our patients are waiting for.
Why is it important for minorities to join Be The Match?
Just like our finger prints, DNA makes us all unique. It's also the key to finding a cure for many blood cancers and disorders. Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) is a protein – or marker – which communicates to your immune system which cells belong and which do not. It is inherited from both parents, thus the DNA which determines eye and hair color, your ethnicity, etc., also determines which cells are best suited for a particular patient.
What will a "match" do?
· Offer a potential cure for blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma and blood disorders like sickle cell anemia.
· Increase the likelihood of a successful transplant.
· Improve engraftment—when the donated cells start to grow and make new blood cells.
· Reduce the risk of complications, such as graft-versus-host disease.
Unfortunately, only 30% of patients find a match within their family. That's where the Be The Match registry comes in.
A requirement for enrollment in the registry is a simple, painless cheek swab. Once these swabs are collected they are sent to the National Marrow Donor Program for testing, HLA typing and, hopefully, a match.
While the registry does have a diverse group of 10 million people and it’s the world’s largest listing of potential marrow and cord blood donors, we need to increase the availability of minority and multi-ethnic donors. African Americans are one of the lowest represented ethnicities on the registry, needing not only treatment for cancers, but also sickle cell anemia, a disease that is ethnic specific to this group.
Currently the registry is:
7% African American/Black
7% Asian/South Asian
3% Multiple Race
1% American Indian/Alaska Native .
1% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander